Piloteer ($2.99) by Fixpoint Productions Ltd. is a ragdoll physics-based game that will have you flying and crashing in phenomenal ways. If you’re a fan of Whitaker Trebella’s other games, which include the much-acclaimed Pivvot and Polymer, then you will want to scoop this one up immediately. Just remember — frustration is part of the fun in this one.
It’s an item that all of mankind has dreamed of having one day — a jetpack. I know I’ve been wanting a jetpack ever since I was just a kid, I mean, who wouldn’t want to be able to fly around by themselves? It sure beats cars. But it’s 2015 and we still don’t have jetpacks yet. Have you ever wondered why that is? As you’ll learn in Piloteer, it’s probably because flying a jetpack is incredibly difficult. I’ve been looking forward to this game for a long time, and it’s kind of surreal that it’s finally available.
If you’re used to the simplistic style of Trebella’s other games, then you’re in for a surprise with Piloteer. The visuals are stunningly beautiful in this game, as it features creative, hand-crafted crayon drawings for each environment as well as your character, and it has that papier-mâché look and feel to it. Everything seems to just come alive on your screen, and that’s wonderful. The colors are rich and vibrant, and Trebella made sure to add incredible amounts of details on the various objects that you can land or crash on. It has a classic retro theme going on, which is wrapped up in steampunk game menus and news tickers. The piano music is calming and soothing, and the sound effects are delightful. Trebella has hit another one out of the park in terms of visual and audible design.
There are two modes in Piloteer: Career and Free Fly, with both having three different areas to fly in (The Park, The Lakeshore, and The Pier). However, to advance in the game and unlock the other two areas, you’ll have to do Career mode first. This mode features 60 missions for players to complete, and while they appear simple on paper, the reality is that it will take you a while (and a lot of failures) to accomplish them. You can see your progress on accepted missions on the left side of the screen.
However, because the game is so challenging, that sense of achievement you get when successful is huge. Finishing a mission will net you a medal, and you need a certain number of these to unlock The Lakeshore and The Pier. The Free Fly mode lets you do whatever you want in the area, so you can fly and crash as you please. Following along with the retro steampunk theme, Piloteer will also have news ticker announcements scrolling at the top of the screen every now and then, which serve to mock your ridiculous flying in a humorous way. News briefs will also occasionally show up too, highlighting your progress on showing the world that jetpacks are great (or not).
The controls in the game are pretty simple and straightforward, but hard to master due to the difficulty of the game overall. To activate your jetpack thrusters, just tap on the left and right sides of the screen. The left side propels you forward to the right, while tapping on the right makes you fly backwards. If you want to go up, you’ll have to tap on both sides of the screen at the same exact time, otherwise things are a bit wonky upon liftoff. For a liftoff to be successful, you’re going to have to land on your feet, which is a trick I haven’t perfected yet. I’ve been in the beta of the game for a while, and I still can’t get the hang of the controls at times. While it’s annoying at times, the resulting rag-doll physics of your crashes are hilarious.
While the game does not have a point system, there is Game Center integration for leaderboards. Your position on the leaderboards is determined by the number of medals you’ve earned, so this is definitely a game that rewards skill. I’m a bit surprised that there are no achievements though, as I thought this game would be perfect for that. You can also share your best replays through Facebook, Twitter, or good old-fashioned email.
I’ve been loving Piloteer so far, despite being pretty terrible at the game. The visuals are gorgeous and just come alive on the screen, and the serene piano soundtrack complements everything so well. The controls are intuitive but do need time to master, which is expected from any game nowadays. The two game modes are fun and challenging, but I hope that Trebella adds more environments in the future.
I highly recommend checking out Piloteer if you’re a fan of Trebella’s work, or just enjoy hysterical rag-doll physics games. You can find Piloteer on the App Store as a universal download for $2.99.